Who May Become the Next Head Coach of NKU Men's Basketball?
The Northern Kentucky University men's basketball program decided not to bring back Dave Bezold who had coached with the Norse since 1990. Bezold was an assistant to Ken Shields for 14 years before taking over the head job in 2003, where he went 194-133. Once NKU began the transition to Division I, however, he struggled going 33-54 in the last three years.
NKU declined to specify why the decision was made not to bring Bezold back.
The search is underway to find his replacement and while no candidates have been made public by the school, certain candidates may be on the radar due to various ties with the school and the area.
The Sporting News reports Tuesday that Xavier assistant Travis Steele is expected to interview for the Northern Kentucky job, citing a source. Steele, who has been on the Musketeers bench for the past seven seasons, has also worked at Indiana University and Wabash Valley College.
John Brannen could be a good fit for the job after spending six seasons as an assistant at the University of Alabama. He was appointed interim head coach of the Crimson Tide this past season after former head coach Anthony Grant was let go after the SEC Tournament. Brannen advanced the Crimson Tide to the second round of the NIT Tournament before losing at Miami.
Brannen is a Campbell County native and graduated from Newport Central Catholic. He is a finalist for the head coaching job at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
Former Kentucky Wildcats player Allen Edwards is another name in the mix to land the top job at NKU. Edwards has been an assistant at Wyoming for four seasons and has been to the NCAA Tournament seven times either as a player or coach. His UK team won championships in both 1996 and 1998. Before joining the Wyoming staff, Edwards spent time as an assistant at Western Kentucky in 2010-11 and Virginia Commonwealth before that.
Closer to home, Covington Catholic High School head coach Scott Ruthsatz may be an intriguing name for the Norse to consider after winning the Kentucky state title in 2014 and advancing to the KHSAA Sweet 16 semifinals again last season. Ruthsatz has compiled a 108-29 record in his four seasons with the Colonels. Ruthsatz, whose son is a freshman at Cov Cath, may not be interested in entering the college coaching ranks at this point of his career.
NKU is not alone in terms of seeking a new coach as they continue the transition into Division I. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell hired Pat Duquette their first year entering the D-I ranks a season after Northern Kentucky began their transition.
Within the Atlantic Sun Conference, Florida Gulf Coast hired Andy Enfield their first Division I season. Enfield left for the University of Southern California in 2013. North Florida hired Matthew Driscoll in their first year of Division I postseason eligibility as well.
Under Bezold, NKU landed three recruits to play next season, including Newport Central Catholic senior forward Drew McDonald. The others are Hagen Tyler from Boyle County and Brennan Gillis of Indianapolis. Whether the coaching status has changed their commitment to the Norse is unknown.
Whoever the next coach is, that individual will have a rising athletic program, a state-of-the-art arena, and the second most-populated region of the state at their disposal. The Norse will be eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament beginning in the 2016-17 season. NKU lost in overtime to Lipscomb this past season in the first round of the A-Sun tournament in their first ever Division I postseason game.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo via NKU